This HBR Article Will Make You Rethink Your Definition of Resilience


I always believed resilience was the ability to bounce back, stay tough, fight through adversity. In fact, the definition in the Cambridge Business English Dictionary says “resilience is the quality of being able to return quickly to a previous good condition after problems.” That’s the definition under which I operated … until this morning.

Early today I received a link to a 2016 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article that changed my mind. The article is called “Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure.”

The article states that we teach our children about the other definition of resilience from the time they are young. There is a school project due tomorrow? We tell them they have to put in the hours to get it done. They didn’t plan well? Get over it, and do what’s needed. (Some of us would stay up to help or at least keep them company while they did the work. 😊)

Teaching this behavior often carries into career years. Having worked for a dynamic, fast-paced company for many years, I confess I was a workaholic who thrived on getting things done, helping others, and being available whenever the company or employees needed me. Taking time to recharge on vacations was uncomfortable for me for many years. I remember one summer, I received FedEx packages while we were on vacation in Cape May, NJ.  It took me years to realize that the stock wouldn’t plummet if I took my paid time off. I’m much better at it today, thank goodness.

The HBR article says the “lack of recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.” Aha! We NEED the downtime in order to BE resilient? Yes. That makes sense, doesn’t it? You can’t be resilient if you are not rested. You can’t bounce back and take the next run at the problem, if you don’t have the strength or positive mental attitude.


10 ways to build resilience and find more time

There’s a great book called “Find More Time” by Laura Stack. Here are some key take-aways to consider:

  • Organize what Stack calls the eight pillars of your life: plans, priorities, personalities, pests (meaning pesky issues), possessions, paper, posts, and play.
  • Evaluate your priorities. Put them first.
  • Focus on one project at a time instead of multi-tasking; this improves the quality of work and your overall productivity.
  • Toss outdated publications. Not only are they old news, but you can probably find the information online if you need to reference it in the future. I add to this a tip I heard from Oprah: If you aren’t having fun reading a book for pleasure, stop reading it. It was a very freeing feeling when I adopted this practice.
  • Set aside time for friends and family vacations.
  • Take time to replenish yourself on a regular basis.


To these I add a few of my own:

  • Schedule breaks and down time during your day; protect that time on your calendar.
  • Learn to say ‘no.’ Do it in a nice way so as not to offend, but do it.
  • Unplug from technology. (I’m still working on this one!)
  • Find a hobby and make it a priority at least once a week.


Four incorrect assumptions I have carried with me for years

From a personal perspective, I realize that I have held onto four statements, four assumptions, over many years of working in the corporate world. Here they are in case you are curious … and perhaps they are similar to a few of your own:

  • It is necessary to work through lunch.
  • I don’t have time to read for pleasure.
  • Enjoying the serenity of my back yard is reserved for weekends or vacation days.
  • When you leave a company to start your own enterprise, keeping in touch with friends will be difficult.


I am happy to say I was wrong

Over the last few weeks, I have changed routines, and can happily say that the above assumptions are not true. They were self-imposed, and they have changed for the better. Here’s how:

  • Most days I carve out 30-60 minutes to step away from the computer and have something to eat. It may not necessarily be at the same time every day, but I’ve been able to take the break. It’s been easier to do than I thought it would be, and I find myself refreshed when I return to the computer.
  • Instead of reading the latest business books and articles, (which I still enjoy), I’ve made it a point to read fun books, too. I actually put it on my daily To Do List each morning: “read and relax.” This reminds me to take at least 30 minutes to unplug. I’ve been exploring some new authors, too. (If you have any suggestions, email me!)
  • We have a lovely back yard that we typically only appreciated on the weekends. With the pace of Corporate America and my commute to the office most days, I spent little time enjoying the views. Today that has changed. Having the flexibility of a home office, I can work from the table on our deck. In fact, I am writing this from my new favorite chair.
  • Keeping in touch with friends from my former employer has been easier than I imagined. We are all connected in so many ways that it has been easy keeping up with their goings-on while sharing my updates as well. In addition to my old social circles, I’ve made new friends through neighborhood and business networks.


What are some ways to build resilience?

If you want to build your resilience, you need to slow down. Make some conscious choices today that will help you feel better tomorrow. Just because there are 1440 minutes in a day doesn’t mean every single one has to be scheduled. Take charge and recharge. You are in the driver’s seat to make it happen. Let me know how you do.

Have a great day!